Health officials: COVID-19 hospitalizations from Omicron peaked about 2 weeks ago
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said she believes COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state peaked two weeks ago.
"There is good news that cases and hospitalizations likely peaked two weeks ago and continue to decline," Persichilli said at Gov. Phil Murphy's COVID-19 news briefing on Monday.
"The Omicron tsunami which had washed across the state is continuing at this point to pull back," Murphy said, but with the typical pandemic exceptions.
"So while yes, we do believe that we're on the back side of Omicron, we are not free of it," Murphy added.
MORE: Stop the Spread
In the state, 96% of COVID-19 cases are believed to be the Omicron variant, and while the rate of transmission has decreased, there are still over 4,000 people with COVID-19 in hospitals.
"Even though numbers are trending very positively -- and they are -- they're still higher than anything we have encountered, even through last winter's surge and the delta variant surge from last summer," Murphy cautioned. "Cases are down by roughly two thirds from two weeks ago."
Persichilli said 39% of the more those hospitalizations are primarily due to COVID-19 and 61% are so-called incidental COVID hospitalizations.
"We've used nationally that term, incidental. We've had the discussion back at the Department of Health that it really is not the appropriate term. In fact it's contributing factors," Persichilli said.
"It's a mistake to assume that that incidental COVID case can have no health impact when we know in fact they do," Murphy said.
State officials continue to encourage vaccinations and boosters as Murphy again compared people who are not vaccinated to drunk drivers.
"I think it's a shirking of our collective responsibility," Murphy said. "I do think it's akin to drunk driving. You're not only putting yourself at risk you're putting other people at risk."
The governor said he has not yet made a decision on whether he will extend the COVID-19 public health emergency for another 30 days when it expires in less than three weeks.
Meantime, Republican State Sen. Mike Testa said late Monday that Murphy was "absolutely wrong" to compare being unvaccinated to driving drunk.
Testa, who is not vaccinated, said, "Omicron is both infecting and being transmitted by vaccinated people at high rates."